04/21/2004

Anti-Immigration Candidates Rejected in Sierra Club Election

Members of the Sierra Club overwhelmingly rejected anti-immigration candidates in voting for the environmental group's board of directors, Club officials announced Wednesday.

The mail-in balloting, which took place between March 1 and April 21, was the culmination of a long battle between traditional environmentalists and anti-immigration forces inside and outside the Club that were attempting to turn the environmental powerhouse into an anti-immigration group. Club officials were first alerted to the takeover attempt last October in a letter sent by the Center.

The three main anti-immigration candidates — former Colorado Gov. Dick Lamm, Cornell University entomologist David Pimentel and former Congressional Black Caucus Foundation administrator Frank Morris — were resoundingly defeated.

Instead, by margins of about 10-to-1, voters chose a slate endorsed by Groundswell Sierra, a rump group inside the Club that had opposed the anti-immigration takeover attempt.

After a major press campaign by Groundswell, the Center and hundreds of concerned Sierra Club leaders, 171,000 of the Club's approximately 750,000 members voted — the highest levels of voting in the Club's history. The next largest turnout was in 1998, when 68,000 Club members voted. (View full voting results on the Sierra Club's site.)

"I'm thrilled," said Robert Cox, a two-time former Club president and current board member. "Sierra Club members did what they do best. They talked with their neighbors, they e-mailed, they phoned. They have reclaimed their organization.

"And I have great confidence that we are less vulnerable to a takeover with the members having spoken so clearly. There could be no greater rejection of the anti-immigration agenda than this."

Center co-founder Morris Dees also ran for the board, but only to suggest that members not vote for Lamm, Pimentel or Morris. Dees specifically asked that members not vote for him — and they didn't — as his only purpose was to warn of a hostile takeover attempt that was being aided by racist hate groups.

"We're very pleased to have played a part in helping to educate members of the Club about the takeover attempt by anti-immigration activists," Dees said. "It's a good day for the Sierra Club."